from the blog.

Flip of a Switch

Something changed late last year. Friends I’d made in the Twitter world had recently given birth and were struggling in the way new parents do in the early days—breastfeeding, lack of sleep, baby blues. I was in a group text with a few friends in the home stretch of their pregnancies, and the messages became more frequent as their excitement (and frustration) built.

It was gradual. My somewhat consistent attempts to offer advice to the new moms on Twitter began to taper off. Even when it was most justified, I started to feel irritated by complaining. As an exclusively pumping mama, I found myself frustrated when reading about breastfeeding problems—and then, jealous. I felt envious of the moms treasuring the early days with their babies (or appearing to do as much), remembering the fog with which I’d trudged through the first three to four weeks of postpartum life. I read of quick vaginal labors, even of long vaginal labors, and felt myself turning inward with a sense of yearning, and failure. And then I started to make good use of the mute button—a feature of Twitter I’d rarely felt the need to make use of in the past, even while trying to conceive.

As their messages increased in frequency, my responses in the group text dwindled. I would go to the Details tab and flick my fingertip over the Do Not Disturb feature every once in a while. I felt guilty, and resentful, and selfish, and tired, and sorry, and jealous…that last of which hardly made any sense. One was about to have her second rainbow baby, sure, but the other was about to have her first. And yet her chance at laboring—and early, at that—dug into me like fingernails on skin.

Eventually, half the people I followed on Twitter were muted and I had completely stopped responding to the group text.

The gradual buildup had reached maximum capacity, and my limit was reached. The switch flipped and I shut down. I withdrew from social media, from interacting with my friends, and hid.

Yet I was left with one question swimming around in my brain: Why?

Why did these things bother me, these things like late-term pregnancy and the early days of motherhood? The jealousy over others’ breastfeeding was obvious, and the laboring—as someone who was more or less forced into a c-section by medical necessity—made sense, to an extent. But why was everything else bothering me?

These people—my friends—were first-time parents; they’d finally taken home their rainbows and unicorns. I was often scrolling through my timeline with my own sleeping rainbow infant beside me, and yet I was consumed by a fiery, raging nexus of jealousy and envy and resentment. In the middle of the firestorm was this relentless feeling of guilt, of selfishness, of self-centeredness. I couldn’t help berating myself in my head: What is your fucking problem?

When I joined the online community, hiding behind my anonymous username as I pursued fertility treatments for the first time, I didn’t experience much of this animosity. I followed many already-pregnant infertiles, and a good handful of those who were already parents. There may have been the occasional barb of envy or jealousy but, overall, not so much. I saw other women who’d had multiple miscarriages and/or thyroid issues like I did, and I felt hopeful. I watched them in their pregnancies, I watched them raise their children, and I imagined doing those things myself one day.

So, you can imagine my surprise and subsequent self-hatred when I found myself incapable of dealing with anything to do with late pregnancy or the early days of newbornhood—like a childless infertile triggered by anyone who achieved parenthood might—despite the fact that I’ve had my own rainbow for nearly a year now.

Maybe it’s because 2016 is here, and the prospect of trying again is on my mind. Maybe it’s because parenting after loss or infertility, no matter how badly we want it, isn’t as easy as we would like it to be—the birth itself, breastfeeding, weaning, coparenting, being a working mother or a SAHM…the list goes on. There seem to be a thousand different options when it comes to having and raising your child. When it doesn’t go the way you wanted, especially after fighting for it so hard, you get jealous of those who do get what they want—or what you wanted. You wonder why, in spite of everything, you were still robbed of something that could’ve been easier.

Parenting after loss and/or infertility isn’t a constant. It’s an amorphous state of being—impossible to define, endlessly changing, constantly blindsiding you. I’ve had to come to terms with the idea that maybe what didn’t trigger me before, might trigger me after. I’ve wrestled with whether or not it’s okay, because I never saw it coming. If I’m being honest, before my son, I wouldn’t have expected this from any other rainbow/unicorn parents.

Yet here I am—feeling this way and unable to stop. What do I do?

I try to give myself grace. I try to give myself permission to feel how I feel even if, instinctively, it feels wrong—because it’s not. I try to tell myself it’s okay if friendships have changed, or even ended. I try to give in to the ebb and flow of this whole experience and understand that nothing is finite, nothing is predictable.

Survival, self-protection, self-care, is important above all else.

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  1. I think that while TTCing, friends who are pregnant or who have babies are sources of hope and inspiration, while friends who are pregnant or give birth after us, may be a reminder of what we couldn’t achieve (not being able to have a vaginal birth or breastfeed, etc.) I think women put a lot of expectations on their births and early years of parenting, and when things don’t turn out as expected, it can be hard to see someone else who has achieved what we wanted.

    I think that taking care of yourself is extremely important, and if that means having to mute, or step away from a conversation, then you should do that. Maybe once you’re feeling stronger, you can reach out to those friends, check in to see how they’re doing, and explain why you needed to step away <3

  2. I could’ve written something very similar. I was envious of labor, of parents who held their babies right after they were born, of people who had enough breastmilk to sustain their babies..

    And now? Of people who are sure about trying again, sure about not.. Ah well. I’ll get through it with you guys.

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